Maple Syrup Producing on the North Shore
Sawtooth Mountain & Wild Country Maple Syrup
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The cold nights and warm days are giving way to great runs at Northland maple syrup farms. Temperatures need to be just right at the sugar bush for the sap to run. The perfect spring weather is crucial. It requires a cold snap at night of 27 to 30 degrees, paired with 43 to 47 degree daytime high temperatures.
This six week season is currently underway!
Drip by drip, 25,000 tapped maple trees bring sap through 200 miles of lines running through the north woods.
“It’s sugars that your body can recognize and I think that’s the neat part of it!” explained Greg Nichols the syrup producer and Wild Country Maple Syrup.
It only take six people to run Sawtooth Maple and Wild Country Maple Syrup in Lutsen Minnesota.
“It feels good to be part of a whole family company and just working out of the woods and doing everything natural and we are certified organic so we try to do everything right with the trees and don’t over tap.” says Michael Baker bottler and sales of Wild Country Maple.
Each tree is treated as delicately as possible. “When we tap a tree we look for where a past hole might be and we try to stay 6 inches one way or the other away from that hole.” said Nichols.
And the sap started to trickle early this year!
The owner of Sawtooth Maple Syrup, Kirstin Vandenberg explains, “It was really unexpected, I’ve been here for 20 years and I think there was only one other season that we started in February. So we definitely see the effects of climate change here on our sugar bush.”
And with a hard freeze in between, “It’s been fits and starts but we are having superior runs again and now we are back in it. But I think it’s going to stick this time! I hope it sticks!” said Nichols.
Depending on the changing temperatures you get different grades of maple syrup here. You have a delicate gold taste which is your lighter version. Then you have an amber rich taste, which is in the middle. Another medium color is the dark robust, as you can see right there. And we even have your very strong robust. And once you combine all of these together, that’s when you get the perfect wild country syrup!
“Right now when the sap is running really hard and we have ideal conditions for sap flow, we are making a light amber, I mean it’s beautiful. “ said Vandenberg.
But it’s not all sweet and as simple as it looks, “It’s extremely hard work, I don’t think people realize the physical nature of what we do. I mean you look in the woods and you see all the tubing and things like that. But it’s nearly a year round job. “ said Vandenberg.
“It’s grueling, it’s physically grueling… but it’s very satisfying work.” Nichols explains, “Why not use our physical abilities to get out here and do something different! So doesn’t everybody want to do something different sometimes?”
Every time the wind blows or an animal curiously bites, maintenance is needed.
“If you have a leak in one line it may be holding up maple sap all the way up further in the line.” Nichols describes, ”We use a little electrical tape and we have to really listen carefully and use our visual as well. When you see squirrel bites you know… here we go! In fact I’ve got one here that has squirrel bits on it here so.”
After the sap is collected it goes through many steps to get to us. Holding tank by holding tank, filtering and boiling it into the maple syrup you know.
“Sometimes old fashion produces some of the best quality syrup than you can imagine!” Baker explained.
Then it’s off to be bottled and it’s right next door! You can tour the property year round and stop by for your local fix.
“Right now we are aging syrup in a bourbon barrel, so hopefully in August or September we will bottle that up and it will just be kind of a specialty thing!” Baker said, ”We have some loyal fans that once they’ve had wild country then that’s all they’ll buy!”
If you are headed up the north shore they are located just a few miles off of 61 in Lutsen.
They have a store open 24 hours on property, running on an honors system and you can also buy their syrup at Super One Foods, Cub Foods and various coops in Minnesota.
If you want to stop by for a tour or place an order for maple syrup head to email@example.com